Many times when we think of people in the abstract, we think of their defining characteristics. Not so much about them, but about the particular things that separate them from their peers. Everyone has them. Some are easy to identify and some are more difficult, but they are there for each of us. So what I'll set out to do now is examine the defining characteristic of Kentucky's returning basketball players.
But rather than try to define them as "purposeful" or "dedicated," I'm going to try to identify each returning player with movie character. Movies have become a way for our culture to express the allegorical, the mythical, and the abstract. So I thought it would be fun to give you my take on how next year's basketball team might be expressed as movie characters.
So without further ado and any more gilding the lilly, here is my whimsical attempt at representing each of our returning scholarship players with movie characters.
Patrick Patterson -- Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator
If a movie character was ever fit to describe a player, this is truly it. Maximus was utterly indomitable, just like Patrick, and his combination of martial skill and leadership nearly brought Rome to it's knees. Patrick embodies all of Maximus -- Loyalty, bravery, determination, leadership and ability to dominate every opponent both physically and mentally.
Like Maximus, Patterson will lead the Wildcats this year. He will lead with his passion and his heart and his skill. Crowds will cheer him as they cheered Maximus in the Arena. His motto will be: "There was once a dream that was Kentucky basketball. It shall be realised."
Jodie Meeks -- Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
How does this work, you ask? Inigo Montoya was a skilled and excellent swordsman, but a tragic figure in that his father, whom he loved very much, was killed in front of him by the Six Fingered Man when he was but a child. In similar fashion, Jodie is a skilled player who lost an entire year of his life to injury, a tragic circumstance for his UK career.
Inigo embodies many of Jodie's characteristics -- skill, athleticism, charm, loyalty and wit. Jodie has shown great loyalty to Kentucky and given all of himself to the game. The paraphrase of Inigo's famous mantra will surely apply to Jodie next year: "My name is Jodie Meeks. You are my opponent. Prepare to lose."
Perry Stevenson -- Kurt Sloane, Kickboxer
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloane was an athletic martial arts fighter who came to Thailand utterly unprepared. While he had great skills, they were undeveloped and inadequate for him to survive the savagery of Muay Thai and avenge the crippling blow that struck down his brother.
In like fashion, Perry Stevenson came to Kentucky unprepared, but skilled. He meandered through his first 45 games or so at Kentucky. But just as Van Damme's character eventually discovered in his training by Xian Chow, character and strength must mingle with talent and skill before victory is possible.
Ramon Harris -- William Thatcher/Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein, A Knight's Tale
Ramon Harris has spent the last two years trying to "change his stars" from a marginal Division I player into a knight of Kentucky basketball. Like Sir Ulrich, played by Heath Ledger, Harris started his career at Kentucky in the middle of the season, finally finding his groove and earning a starting position.
I don't know if Harris is quite ready for the touch of the sword on the shoulder, but by all reports, he is getting there. His consistent defense and all-around floor game made him an important "glue guy" last year. Is he ready for the big time in 2008? We shall see.
Jared Carter -- Jim Braddock, Cinderella Man
Russell Crowe again makes an appearance on our list as an avatar for Jared Carter. Carter has suffered setback after setback at Kentucky, just like Braddock did in the movie. Unlike the character I have chosen to represent him, however, he has yet to make his comeback and become a working-class hero like Braddock.
But Jared has shown considerable determination in the face of long odds, and refuses to give up. Can he climb the considerable mountain in front of him and finally live up to his potential?
A.J. Stewart -- Jimmy Dix, The Last Boy Scout
A.J. Stewart has many of the characteristics of the wise-cracking character played by Daymon Wayans, including tremendous talent and a lighthearted nature. Dix was a loose cannon in his team-up with Joe Hallenback (Bruce Willis) just like A.J. was much of the time on the court last year.
But just as Jimmy Dix came to be a valuable friend and cohort to Hallenback, A.J. Stewart is working to find that same relationship with the Kentucky team. If he does, watch out!
Michael Porter -- Frodo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Just like Frodo as the bearer of the One Ring, Michael Porter was far out of his depth when he matriculated to Kentucky. He has struggled with ballhandling and the quickness of other top point guards, and although he has proven to be a good three-point shooter, his liabilities often outweigh his assets.
Still, just as Frodo found a way to get the job done, Porter has persevered and will likely see a lot of minutes this year. Will he get to the top of Mount Doom, or will he be seized by the orcs before he gets there?